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Joint Pain in Dogs - Signs, Causes & Treatment

Joint Pain in Dogs - Signs, Causes & Treatment

Dogs of all ages can be afflicted by joint pain that impacts their quality of life. Left untreated, this can potentially lead to serious conditions and injuries. It may be difficult to determine your dog is experiencing joint pain unless you know what to look for. Our Long Island vets explain types of joint pain in dogs, in addition to causes and treatments.

While joint pain in common in dogs of all ages and breeds, our canine friends are much more likely to suffer from it as they grow older. Many pet parents see their dog "slowing down", but do not notice this is often caused by joint pain rather than just old age. 

If the condition causing the pain isn't addressed, it can lead to more serious conditions or injuries in the future. In this post, our vets discuss the types, causes, symptoms and treatments for joint pain in dogs. 

Types & Causes of Joint Pain in Dogs

Two types of joint issues may be causing pain for your dog: developmental and degenerative. 

Developmental Joint Issues

If your dog's joints develop improperly while they are young, developmental joint problems can persist, cause painful symptoms and affect their quality of life. 

These issues are often caused by genetics and may result in more serious injuries such as elbow dysplasia and hip dysplasia.  

Many dog breeds are predisposed to some type of joint issues that can cause pain. Though larger dogs are much more likely to experience these problems, developmental joint issues can be found in pooches of any size. 

For example, Bernese Mountain Dogs often develop elbow dysplasia, while Newfoundlands are one breed that's prone to developing issues in the cruciate ligament. Rottweilers are susceptible to developing joint problems in their ankles and knees. 

If you plan to purchase a dog from a breeder, our Long Island vets recommend asking them about any predispositions their lineage or breed may have to joint issues. A good breeder will provide you with that information unprompted. However, it never hurts to ask if you don't receive it. 

Degenerative Joint Issues 

These problems are caused by repeated use of a joint over time. The cartilage in a dog's joint can wear down or the tendon can become injured. Cruciate ligament problems are one common type of degenerative joint issue. These can cause the tissues to degenerate over time with repeated use, resulting in more severe problems and pain. 

The actual root causes of degenerative joint issues can vary widely from injuries to stress fractures or osteoarthritis. Larger dogs will often develop these, as their weight places more stress on their joints over time. 

Symptoms of Joint Pain in Dogs

It may be difficult to tell if your dog is experiencing joint pain. They tend to be somewhat stoic and, especially if they are young, they will continue to enthusiastically participate in activities that may be causing them pain (or leading to the worsening of their condition) if they enjoy it.

That being said, here are some of the most common symptoms of joint pain that your pup may express:

  • Limping and stiffness
  • Irritability
  • Frequent slipping while moving about
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Depression
  • Licking, chewing or biting the affected area
  • Lethargy

If you notice any of these behaviors in your dog without an obvious cause, it might be time to bring them into your Long Island vet in order to have them examined for joint pain and its underlying conditions.

Treatments For Joint Pain In Dogs 

The appropriate treatment for joint pain and its underlying cause in your dog will vary based on its severity and the specific root cause.

At Atlantic Coast New York Veterinary Specialists, our dedicated team of board-certified specialists provide the highest quality, compassionate veterinary care, including surgical and rehabilitative specialty services. 

Conditions like hip or elbow dysplasia will require surgical intervention to rectify, while some degenerative joint conditions, if caught early, can be treated by a combination of nutrition, rehabilitation and exercise prescribed by your vet.

While the specific treatment may vary, the primary goal of treating joint pain in your dog is to get them back to their regular mobility and level of activity. This is especially important because well-developed muscles around your pup's joints actually help to reduce the stress and strain they place on their joints. An active dog is a healthy one.

Most treatments will also involve an assessment of your dog's weight compared to their size. If they are overweight, they are placing extra strain on their joints and a diet may be prescribed to help ease the weight their pained joints have to bear.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

To learn more about how joint pain in dogs is diagnosed and treated, contact our Long Island veterinary team, or request a referral from your primary care vet. We can examine your dog and discuss potential causes and appropriate treatment options. 

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